Speaking English, Spanish, Chinese and a little bit of German may not help Yvette Espinoza much in her new job in Chicago with global aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman, but it can’t hurt.
Espinoza, the 22-year-old daughter of Mexican immigrants who didn’t have much of an education, is the dean’s medalist recipient from Fresno State’s Lyles College of Engineering. She was born in Hanford, but grew up in Fresno.
That didn’t keep them – her father, Humberto, is a mechanic; her mother, Margarita, is a housewife – from making sure their children got an education.
“My mom took us to the library often,” said Espinoza, who will earn her bachelor degree in computer engineering with a 3.83 GPA. She will also get minors in mathematics and Chinese.
Espinoza would check out books every week. Later, he mother encouraged the older sister to share information about the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field to her younger sister.
Espinoza, who was a valedictorian at Edison High School, never figured she’d be going to Fresno State. But, when she was offered a spot on the Smittcamp Family Honors College, she accepted.
“I didn’t have a better reason. It’s been my best decision,” said Espinoza, who secured two internships with Raytheon Missile Systems.
After enrolling at Fresno State, she enrolled in a Mandarin class. She visited China during summer break, and then studied there for a semester.
She knew little English when she started school.
I can still pick up some words in German, and I’m still in contact with my German teacher.
Yvette Espinoza, Fresno State dean’s medalist from the Lyles College of Engineering
At Edison High, she heard a poem in German and “loved it so much” she started studying the language. At Fresno State, however, she ran into a scheduling conflict and couldn’t get a German class onto her schedule. So Chinese was it.
“I can still pick up some words in German, and I’m still in contact with my German teacher,” said Espinoza, whose older sister also speaks Chinese.
“We both decided we wanted to learn Chinese,” said Espinoza, who plans a three-week trip to South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong with her sister before starting her job in Chicago.
Espinoza has a younger brother and sister.
On the engineering side, one where women are still outnumbered, Espinoza focused her research on underwater mapping of watercraft. She did robotics for three years and took part in MESA all four years of high school before entering Fresno State.
“It piqued my interest,” she said about going into engineering.
She wanted to major in aerospace, but the major is not available at Fresno State.
Espinoza wants to do her part to get more women, especially Latinas, into the STEM fields. She encountered only three other women in electrical and computer engineering at Fresno State.
“I realized more work needs to be done to motivate and retain those who would otherwise be intimidated by the demographics in the engineering field,” she told a Fresno State reporter. “I’m a huge believer in outreach to younger students in STEM.”